The inspiration for this dish comes not from a visit to Bangkok or the Thai restaurants which have proliferated in Britain in recent years, but from Ann and Franco Taruschio at the Walnut Tree Inn at Abergavenny. After adopting their Thai daughter, they travelled regularly to Thailand, and Ann particularly has learned many of their cooking skills.
There are quite a few unusual ingredients in this soup, some of which need careful handling. Coconut milk is normally only available tinned or dried in packets. We use the foil packets of white powder which come with instructions for reconstitution as thin, medium or thick. For this dish, you want the thin variety.
Lemongrass is a fibrous bulb about the size of a spring onion. The flavour becomes less pronounced from the base up the stalk. Its flavour is completely distinctive – break open the base, take a good sniff, and you could be addicted to its fresh, herby aroma.
Galangal is related to ginger and looks rather like it, but tastes different. It was known in England in the Middle Ages, and has a reputation as an aphrodisiac – good luck. Galangal powder is an acceptable substitute.
The coriander must be fresh, dried won’t do at all. Lime leaves are very fragrant, but beware the stems which are as thorny as any bramble.
These ingredients are now widely available in Chinatown and other Asian shops. The best time to buy fresh ingredients is Friday morning, when the weekly ingredients arrive by air freight from Bangkok. We get everything from the wonderfully named emporium, Mata Hari Stores, in Earl’s Court.
© 1990 Shaun Hill. All rights reserved.